Fri | Oct 23, 2020

Seating the MPs in Gordon House

Published:Tuesday | September 15, 2020 | 12:07 AM


I would like to present some recommendations for the seating of members of parliament (MPs) in Gordon House, given the current COVID-19 pandemic and the protocols that need to be observed. Advanced African and European multi-party democracies with proportional electoral representation, like Rwanda and Germany, have the people’s deputies seated in semicircles, facing the speaker.

There are aisles to facilitate access to the seats, but there is no physical divide to separate members of different political parties. A physical divide is neither feasible, because it’s impracticable to rebuild the interior of the assembly halls after each national or by-election, nor necessary, because the members are civilised individuals who have learned to agree to disagree agreeably.

Gordon House was built with the outdated colonial single-member plurality, two-party Westminster electoral system in mind, but there is neither a need to ‘tight squeeze’ 48 or more members into a compartment on one side of the divide nor to explore options outside Gordon House.

Seating shouldn’t be an issue. Sixty-three seats can easily be split into one seat for the Speaker and 31 seats on either side of the aisle, with members of both parties sharing space in the same compartments. Insisting on allocating divided spaces to members of different parties is not advisable.